The news has most likely prompted many discussions, particularly with regard to how the two organisations and their functions will operate in the future, though the press release states a long term strategy is to be developed over the summer.
In the meantime, both organisations will continue to run under their own names, with the transfer of key Alcohol Concern functions including Dry January, the Consultancy and Training Unit and Alcohol Concern Wales to Alcohol Research UK. Two former Alcohol Concern trustees, Dr Emily Finch and Mr Peter Holland, have joined the Alcohol Research UK board.
Whilst the two organisations share the same broad objectives of reducing alcohol-related harms, Alcohol Research UK have primarily delivered this through funding of research and other activities (including this blog though without any editorial control). Alcohol Concern though have largely been a campaign and advocacy organisation in recent years, notably developing Dry January and calling for stronger policy approaches in England and Wales such as Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP).
Looking back and thinking forward?
Historically Alcohol Concern operated as a membership organisation for the alcohol treatment sector, campaigning for the need for specialist alcohol services and supporting treatment related projects. However as the treatment sector changed, notably in terms of fewer local alcohol specific services, their scope broadened whilst continuing to act as an information point for both professionals and the public.
Alcohol Research too have too changed over the years, most notably when they emerged from what was labelled as the Government's 'bonfire of the quangos' by departing from its former status as the Alcohol Education Research Council (AERC) in 2011. Since then it has increased in its scope under Chief Exec Dave Roberts, particularly becoming more involved in projects beyond academia and into projects related to important policy and practice issues.
The merger will therefore undoubtedly see further changes still to be determined, perhaps presenting both challenges and opportunities in how the specific objectives and programmes of the two formerly separate organisations are developed. Some in the field may have reservations as has been commented, but it may be worth noting that the current climate for any such charitable organisations is a challenging one. Indeed Alcohol Concern lost all of its Government funding in 2011, and survived longer than Drugscope - its equivalent or sorts for the substance misuse sector - which closed in 2015.
It may also be worth noting that there are also a number of other organisations with similar over-arching goals of reducing alcohol harms, notably the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS), the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), SHAAP and Balance North East. There are also many others involved in debates around alcohol policy, research and practice, whether University groups, conference networks or organisations affiliated with or funded by sections or the alcohol industry. Certainly Alcohol Research UK - or any future name it may operates under - will be likely to feature prominently in advocating for alcohol policy and practice responses rooted in principles of research and evidence.